They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha Ha

IBM, says the report I am reading, is about to ‘bundle server-side, Java-based office suite in with in its WebSphere portal’.

I almost fell off my chair, because in front of me, I happen to have a copy of the Lotus eBusiness Magazine from December of 1997. In the introduction, the editor, whose name happens to be the same as my own, predicts “Lotus Development’s launch of its eSuite, cross platform, apps could be the event that takes Java components from being a promise to a more tangible reality”. The deranged editor, having fallen for one of the daftest ideas of the decade, then goes on to devote most of his magazine to a review of Lotus (IBM) eSuite components and how they might possibly change the future of desktop computing, demonstrating how completely wrong he was about the technology and its potential.

Six years further into the future and IBM is trying again to build a productivity suite to challenge Microsoft’s Office and Sun’s Star Office, using “standard Java side J2EE components” and resurrecting the ghost of Lotus Development’s eSuite which was finally and very expensively abandoned in October 1999.

So just to be sure that I understand the ‘born again’ argument in favour of a Java suite, eSuite was unworkable, ‘Dog slow’ was Robin Bloor’s comment when we had a chance to play with it one day. Corel, remember them? Took one of the world’s most successful software companies and drove it straight towards the risk of oblivion, in a futile attempt to displace Microsoft’s Office with a Java-driven rival.

Once again, we have an idea for a new Java suite is from IBM, a company rather more successful with its services than it has been with desktop software, if we let the results speak for themselves. In fact, I used to run IBM DisplayWrite courses twenty years ago and was an early fan of OS/2 and both of these go a long way towards explaining why the whole world leaped on the Windows bandwagon so enthusiastically in 1990.

So one day, a chap in a dark blue suit stops you in the corridor and whispers, that behind each copy of the IBM WebSphere portal, there’s a free Java productivity suite, one so good that you’ll never need or want to use ‘Office’ again. Do you call security and ask them to restrain him until the men in white coats arrive to collect him?

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions over the ultimate practicality of Java suites and having been badly wrong about Java once before, I’ll leave the final word on the subject to the Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the now unemployed and still missing Iraqi Information Minister:

"I now inform you that you are too far from reality"


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